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toasting at a rehearsal dinner

Best Rehearsal Dinner Ideas for Any Budget

One of the most common examples of a wedding weekend include a rehearsal dinner for the wedding party and other close friends and family. This is meant to include a rehearsal of the wedding ceremony, in which the party practices walking in and everyone knows where they stand.

However, planning a rehearsal dinner can be a lot of work, especially on top of planning a wedding. From themes to locations to entrees, there are a lot of elements to a rehearsal dinner. Below are some helpful rehearsal dinner ideas for a great night.

Basic Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette

rehearsal dinner venue

After the rehearsal ceremony, the rehearsal dinner is also meant as a social event in which members of both families and friends can get to know each other better before the wedding. It also is an opportunity for more intimate speeches to be made and for the couple to thank members of the wedding party. 

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is financed by the groom’s family, though this is certainly not set in stone. There is also sometimes a gift exchange for members of the wedding party. Check out this article for more about rehearsal dinner etiquette.

Fun Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

If you’re not sure where to begin in planning your rehearsal dinner, you’ll need to start to think of some ideas. The best place to start in planning is to set a budget. This will really give you an idea of venues and types of food you can have.

Further, start to think about your favorite restaurants or caterers in the area. It should probably be a different type of food than what you’re serving at your wedding, especially if the days are back-to-back. Keep reading for more creative rehearsal dinner ideas!


Barbecue and Bonfire

For an easy and laid-back rehearsal dinner, try a backyard barbecue and bonfire! Decorate the space with rustic flowers, like baby’s breath, shown here, or sunflowers, and checkered tablecloths. 

Serve food in a homestyle buffet with all of your favorite barbecue foods, like burgers, pulled pork, corn, and cornbread. This will leave everyone happy and full.

For dessert, you’ll need a s’mores bar, obviously! Offer your guests graham crackers, marshmallows, and bits of chocolate to make everyone’s favorite campfire snack.

Where there’s s’mores, there must be fire! Light up a warm bonfire for your guests to mingle around, and share stories of the soon to be newlyweds!


Holiday Rehearsal Dinner

If you’re getting married around the holiday season, that’s a wonderful and warm way to celebrate your upcoming marriage with family! Try cute little Christmas tree place settings like these.

Holiday-themed hors d’oeuvres like these will be easy and a hit among your guests. Decorating the munchies with things like holly berries give your spread a warm feel.

Be sure to toast with special Christmas champagne cocktails, like this one that is topped with cranberry chutney and an evergreen sprig. 

Finish off the night with a luxury hot chocolate bar to warm everyone up before they venture back outside into the cold.


Picnic Rehearsal Dinner

A classy picnic rehearsal dinner can be accomplished by setting up a green area with comfortable blankets and poufs. Decorate with towering florals and string lights.

For something really unique, you can serve drinks in an empty canoe full of ice. This will really drive home a rustic theme!

Serve delicious food, like muffins, in a picnic basket! This is an easy way to pass around buffet foods and to get all of your guests socializing. 

Pass around sweet desserts in little boxes, like these fruits and croissants. This way, each guest can lounge on their blankets and poufs. 


Classy Rehearsal Dinner

For a very classy affair, be sure to put a lot of thought into a nice table setting. This simple one is white, earthy, and has warm candles, representing the exciting nature of tomorrow’s event.

A beautiful hors d’oeuvres spread like this one is necessary for a classy affair. The chalkboard behind it does a great job listing the items offered.

These adorable little cookies are perfect to represent a classy evening, and to get everyone excited for the events tomorrow!

For a classy event, you’ll need classy cocktails. Try coming up with something delicious, like this tangerine gin fizz.


Rehearsal Brunch

Want to spend the night before your wedding relaxing? Try a morning rehearsal ceremony and a rehearsal brunch to follow. After all, breakfast food is considered universally delicious.

Instead of toasting to regular champagne, have a mimosa bar so that your guests can sip on their juice of choice!

A brunch party, since it’s during the day, also offers the opportunity for more bright decorations. A table setting like this is sunny and fun.

For dessert, do sweet parfaits like these. Filled with yogurt and fresh fruit, a parfait is a less heavy dessert than a cake.


Game and Trivia Night

An outdoor game night to celebrate your wedding is a great way to have all the guests mingling and forming relationships. A big checkerboard like this one is a fun choice.

Another fun lawn game is croquet. Croquet is classy, relatively easy to play, and will get everyone laughing.

For the nerdy couple, test your loved ones knowledge with a snappy trivia night. The questions can be about the couple, the couple’s interests, or just a general trivia party. Offer the winner this hilarious favor.

You could also challenge each other with a hilarious round of the newlywed game. The newlywed game is when the couple is asked questions about the other, and they have to match each other’s answers. Click here for a long list of newlywed game questions.


Try an Interesting Venue

While many people have a rehearsal dinner at a friend’s home or a local restaurant, you could look into a more unconventional venue if you have an expanded budget. An old chateau like this one is especially chic.

For a tropical feel, see if a local resort has a space that you can use for a rehearsal. You could even have a pool party!

A venue like a museum or botanical garden will be a talking point in itself. Allow guests to roam the building and enjoy the exhibits. This is a great talking point for loved ones who may not know each other.

If you live near a body of water, a boat rehearsal dinner will be memorable and fun. Often known as a “booze cruise”, there are boat services available for you to host your party. Just make sure no one is easily seasick!


Play on Your Wedding Theme

Try to work your wedding’s theme into your rehearsal dinner. If you have a rustic barn wedding planned, do an outdoor rehearsal dinner with rustic touches.

If your wedding is sort of urban and stylish, decorate with black, white, and metallic touches, in an airy and open venue.

For a fairy tale wedding, host a garden party rehearsal dinner, topped off with old English touches and tea party foods.

What is a beach wedding without a beach rehearsal dinner? Set up your tables with beachy touches like soft candles, seashells, and oyster shells.


Enjoy Locally

Take advantage of your local cuisine. If you’re a New Englander, play that up by hosting a lobster-fest or a clam bake!

For Southerners, decorate your tables with Southern charm, like monogrammed napkins and local flowers. You can also serve classic Southern cuisine and drinks, like sweet tea.

California is well known for its holistic hippie vibes. Have a boho rehearsal dinner with vintage touches, like this cute food truck.


Serve a Groom’s Cake

One tradition of the rehearsal dinner is to serve a groom’s cake. A groom’s cake is a cake that expresses the groom’s interests or hobbies. Learn more about a groom’s cake tradition!

For example, this groom’s cake is for a groom who loves baseball. Celebrating the groom’s interests is a nice way to make sure their tastes are visible in the wedding (which are most often planned by the bride).

This groom’s cake is more subtle, and instead of being about a specific interests, portrays the groom’s masculine energy or types of clothes he wears.


Give Your Wedding Party Gifts

One of the best things about your rehearsal dinner is the opportunity to give your wedding party great gifts to express your appreciation for all they do.

Give your bridesmaids something sweet they can wear to the wedding tomorrow, like these simple earrings with a personalized message.

For the groomsmen, treat them to a commemorative hip flask, giving them the opportunity to remember your wedding every time they go for a drink.


More about Rehearsal Dinners

A rehearsal dinner is a place to try out all of the best things for your wedding. If your speakers are practicing their speeches, learn more about speech order here. If you’re lost in the planning process, check out some of these wedding planner books.

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Katie Sheets

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